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A lot of work to do: Jaguars struggle again, fall in prime time to Saints

First half issues continue as Jacksonville loses to New Orleans, 23-21

Trevor Lawrence of the Jacksonville Jaguars talks to teammates coming out of the huddle during a preseason game against the New Orleans Saints at Caesars Superdome on August 23, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) (Chris Graythen, 2021 Getty Images)

Another preseason game. Another disappointing performance by the Jaguars.

Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars had another challenging night, struggling in their second preseason game in a prime-time Monday night clash with the Saints. Jacksonville’s 23-21 loss dropped the team to 0-2 under Urban Meyer, with the preseason finale against the Cowboys on Sunday approaching quickly.

Sure, it’s preseason and the games don’t count yet, but they will very soon. And two offensive clunkers by Meyer and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell certainly cause concern with the season opener at Houston on Sept. 12 looming.

The running game has yet to get moving. The offensive line remains a liability. The passing game is tentative and basic. Meyer remains committed to a quarterback competition between Lawrence and Gardner Minshew that isn’t really an open competition, regardless of what public statements and pregame depth charts suggest.

Third-stringer CJ Beathard outplayed Minshew once again and made the score respectable with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes and a two-point conversion toss.

The small gains first.

Lawrence played the entire first half and led Jacksonville to a scoring drive, a Josh Lambo field goal that cut the deficit to 14-3.

Lawrence had a shot at running the two-minute offense and did get the Jaguars in position for another field goal try. But Lambo clanked the 43-yard try off the right upright as his struggles continued.

The Saints marched down the field in 32 seconds and got a 52-yard field goal by Jaguars castoff Aldrick Rosas.

In the first half of games against the Browns and Saints, Jacksonville has been outscored 31-3. And Cleveland didn’t use many of its starters on either side of the ball in its game against the Jaguars.

That was it for Lawrence’s night. He finished 14 of 23 passing for 113 yards and logged 33 snaps. In his two preseason starts, Lawrence is 20 of 32 for 184 yards. He’s been sacked three times.

Quite a few things were obvious in the first half.

The offensive line wasn’t up to the challenge again. Jacksonville started rookie Walker Little at left tackle in place of Cam Robinson, second-year player Ben Bartch at left guard for Andrew Norwell and Tyler Shatley at center for Brandon Linder.

Bartch and Little struggled badly to give Lawrence a clean pocket or clear lanes for the running game. Jacksonville had 30 rushing yards in the first half. Minshew played a quarter and a half, finishing 13 of 21 for 149 yards.

He was intercepted in the end zone by Wynton McManis, a throw that wasn’t even close to a Jaguars receiver. Much like last week, Beathard came in after Minshew and moved the ball. He threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Cotton, Jr. with 5:21 to play, and a 24-yard strike to Collin Johnson not long after that. A two-point conversion pass to Nathan Cottrell made the final far more respectable than it was.

While the offense struggled, the Jaguars were strafed by the Saints’ passing game.

Former Florida State star Jameis Winston, battling Taysom Hill for the starting job in New Orleans, picked apart Jacksonville’s starting defense. Winston went at corner Shaquill Griffin often, going over him for both touchdowns in the opening quarter.

His first came on a 43-yard strike to Marquez Callaway where Griffin was beaten and rookie Tyson Campbell tried to catch up and help. The two bumped into Callaway and knocked him off balance, but it actually helped him get separation and make the catch falling down.

Winston’s second strike to Callaway covered 29 yards and beat Griffin in man coverage. Winston was 9 of 10 passing for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Callaway had 104 yards on five catches.

Notebook

• Rookie second-round pick Walker Little made the start at left tackle in place of Cam Robinson and struggled against the Saints defensive front. On a third down on Jacksonville’s third series, Little was bulled back into Lawrence and disrupted the pass attempt.

Jihad Ward had Jacksonville’s first sack of the game on the final play of the first quarter and Dawuane Smoot added the second.

• Rookie first-round pick Travis Etienne suffered a foot injury in the second quarter and did not return.

• Lawrence lost two football games as a starter in college. Both came in the Superdome, one to LSU and the other to Ohio State. They were both in the college football playoffs.

Aldrick Rosas, who played for the Jaguars last year and was cut during training camp in favor of Lambo, nailed a 52-yard field goal. Lambo is 2 of 4 on field goals during the preseason. He hit a 36-yarder in the fourth quarter.

• Defensive end Josh Allen, receiver DJ Chark, cornerback Tre Herndon and offensive linemen Brandon Linder and Andrew Norwell did not dress for the game.


About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.